DURHAM, N.C. – Georgia Tech spoiled Duke’s Senior Day by posting a 41-24 victory over the Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Yellow Jackets improve to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in ACC action while the Blue Devils fall to 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the conference.
The Yellow Jackets scored on their opening possession when DeMaryius Thomas recovered a fumble in the end zone. Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett completed a pass to D.J. Donley, who lost the football at the Duke five yard line following a hit by Duke safety Chris Davis. Thomas then fell on the football in the end zone for the touchdown.
Duke’s defense produced points to tie the game at 7-7 when Leon Wright scooped up a fumble and scampered 24 yards for a touchdown at the 12:15 mark of the first quarter. The fumble return for a score marked Duke’s first since the 1997 season when Darius Clark darted five yards after picking up a loose ball for a touchdown against Clemson.
The Blue Devils surged ahead, 10-7, when Nick Maggio booted a 40-yard field goal with 7:18 left in the opening period. The possession was set up when Duke linebacker Michael Tauiliili intercepted a pass from Bennett and returned the football 14 yards to the Yellow Jacket 18 yard line. Georgia Tech knotted the score at 10-10 when Travis Bell kicked a 29-yard field goal at the 3:38 mark of the first quarter.
Keyed by a 48-yard run by Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech drove 76 yards in seven plays to take a 17-10 advantage on Bennett’s one-yard scoring plunge just over one minute into the second quarter. Five minutes later, the Yellow Jackets increased the lead to 24-10 when Choice scored from one yard out on the ground.
The Thaddeus Lewis-to-Eron Riley combination then found paydirt for the Blue Devils as the duo hooked up on a 64-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to cap a five play, 87-yard drive. The scoring reception marked Riley’s ninth of the season and pulled the Blue Devils to within 24-17 with seven minutes left in the first half.
Bell kicked a 33-yard field goal with 23 seconds before halftime to send the teams to intermission with the Yellow Jackets ahead, 27-17.
Georgia Tech scored less than two minutes into the third quarter for a 34-17 lead when Choice found the end zone from 16 yards out to end a three-play, 58-yard drive.
Special teams play got into the act for the Blue Devils late in the third period when Tony Jackson blocked a Tech punt to set up Re'quan Boyette’s 11-yard touchdown dash that made the score 34-24 with 5:13 on the clock. Georgia Tech increased its lead to 41-24 at the 5:15 mark of the final quarter when Bennett found Correy Earls open for a 38-yard touchdown strike.
Against the Yellow Jackets, Duke wore throwback jerseys in honor of the 1938 Blue Devil squad commonly referred to as the “Iron Dukes”. Manufactured by Nike, the uniform tops are replicas of the jerseys worn by the Duke squad that went through the 1938 regular season unbeaten, untied and unscored upon. Under the direction of Hall of Fame head coach Wallace Wade, the Blue Devils defeated Virginia Tech (18-0), Davidson (27-0), Colgate (7-0), Georgia Tech (6-0), Wake Forest (7-0), North Carolina (14-0), Syracuse (21-0), N.C. State (7-0) and Pittsburgh (7-0) before falling to Southern California in the Rose Bowl, 7-3.
Duke captured the 1938 Southern Conference championship – one of six league titles under Wade – and closed the year ranked third in the final national Associated Press poll. Dan Hill and Eric Tipton captained the squad. Duke’s helmets also will offered a different look versus Georgia Tech. The lids did not have the normal Iron Duke “D” on the sides while the pitchfork stickers awarded with a merit system also were absent.
Prior to the game, Duke honored 22 fourth- and fifth-year seniors who played in the final home game of their respective careers.
Next Saturday, Duke travels to face Notre Dame. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. and the game will be televised live by NBC. The Blue Devils then close out the 2007 campaign in Chapel Hill versus North Carolina on Saturday, November 24.